April 8

Carl Perkins: Rockabilly Music Pioneer and Hitmaker

Today, we are commemorating the birth of one of the pioneers of rockabilly music. He’s no other than Carl Perkins. He was also the man behind the 1955 hit “Blue Suede Shoes.”

Carl Perkins was born on April 9, 1932, in Tiptonville, Tennessee. He was a cotton picker at the very early age of six. It was on the farm where he worked that his musical interest started to grow. He first fell in love with gospel music and learned to play the guitar with the help of his fellow farm workers.

Soon, he began to develop his fondness toward country music just like his father. At the age of ten, Perkins’ twangy sounds became a major source of entertainment for his classmates. Later on, he became a regular performer on Early Morning Farm and Home Hour, a daily radio show in Jackson, Tennessee.

Carl Pekins, the Father of Rockabilly Music, Perkins' Blue Suede Shoes
Photo credit: imdb.com

Musical Breakthrough with “Blue Suede Shoes”

Recording for Sun Records was a turning point in Perkins’ musical career. But, what was more interesting to know was what inspired him to make such a move. Hearing an Elvis Presley record known as “Blue Moon of Kentucky” play on the radio, Perkins didn’t think twice auditioning for the owner of the record label that released Presley’s hit. Soon, Perkins released his first single “Movie Magg” with Sun Records.

His rockabilly hit “Blue Suede Shoes” was what cemented him as a singer-songwriter. It was thought that the idea of the song came from Johnny Cash who Perkins had toured with together with Presley. On a paper bag, Perkins managed to write the lyrics of the song on the evening after a show. Also, it took him only two takes to record the song which would become a million-selling record and a charting hit. Aside from topping the country chart, the song was also reached No. 2 on both the pop and R&B charts.

Perkins later recalled how he didn’t expect what this song would become.

“I never had played what I played in the studio that day,” he said. “I know God said: ‘I’ve held it back, but this is it. Now you get down and get it.'”

The song went on to be performed by Presley himself and covered countless times by numerous artists.

Perkins’ Later Career and Life

Perkins had a long-lasting career despite not being able to fully achieve stardom. He continued recording music on his own and toured with Cash for years. He also continued honing his songwriting process and was able to create this for other artists including the Judds’ “Let Me Tell You About Love” and Dolly Parton’s “Silver and Gold.”

In 1987, Perkins was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and has since been considered the “Father of Rockabilly.” He died on January 19, 1998, at the age of 65 after battling with several health issues.


carl perkins

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